When the “Organizing Maniac” June Saruwatari walked into my New York City apartment, I was nervous.
See, I’ve always been a self-proclaimed clean freak. As a kid, I spent my Saturday mornings cleaning out and re-organizing my doll house (seriously—that was my version of playing). Now, I’m constantly vacuuming, moving things around, fluffing pillows, and wiping off countertops. My former roommates
have all said that they upped their bed-making game when living with me (you’re welcome, guys!). So Saruwatari’s visit was like having a home organization exam that I knew I could ace.
But I have another confession: I could probably serve to declutter my home a bit. (Couldn’t we all?!) That’s where Saruwatari, a Los Angeles-based organizational guru, came in, just in time for spring cleaning.
Her theory and the basis of her new book, Behind The Clutter, is that identifying the truth, love, meaning, and purpose behind your belongings will help you live an easier, happier life.
And while an at-home purge might not be your idea of a good time, you can’t really argue with the outcome. “The whole point of getting simplified and decluttered is to be able to say ‘I love my life,’” says Saruwatari.
So steel yourself and heed her top five tips for decluttering and creating a simpler, more efficient home.
1. Ask yourself: “Do I absolutely love this? Does it mean anything to me? Does it serve a purpose in my life?”
“Anything can serve a purpose—but it’s important to make sure the stuff you are organizing is authentically what you love,” Saruwatari says.
Take, for example, the scarves and costume jewelry I don’t wear, but have sentimental value. Saruwatari suggested I display them or frame them, so they get the pride of place they deserve (instead of getting me annoyed as a fumble through them for the earrings I actually do wear).
2. Carve out space for what’s important: you. “Everything in your space should be representative of your roles and goals,” Saruwatari says. So if you’re a writer like me, you shouldn’t have a desk that’s covered in boxes and dust. It should be a clean space where you actually want to work (and no, the couch doesn’t count).
3. Create systems. “If you make a green smoothie every day with the same ingredients, create a system for that,” Saruwatari says. “Organize all the items in one bin in the fridge.”
When Saruwatari visited my apartment, I thought we would make a beeline for my closet, but instead, she plopped right down on the floor of my kitchen and started going through the pantry, fridge, and cabinets. One hour later my kitchen was intuitively organized: there was a shelf for grains, a home for my coffee and Stevia right above the coffee maker (how logical), and even a smoothie bin in my fridge filled with the whey protein, chia seeds, and coconut oil.
That weekend, I also organized my linen closet and created a beauty shelf, where products are organized by nails, hair, or face (and I tossed everything from my old mascara to the orange lipstick that never worked on me).
4. Go paperless. When was the list time you went to go get something from that filing cabinet? Yeah, we thought so. Having records of your financials is a necessary evil—but that doesn’t mean you have to have folders of paperwork lying around.
“You can get everything scanned and put into the cloud. I’m virtually paperless,” Saruwatari says. You’ll get piece of mind knowing you have everything in case you’re audited, without letting it stress you out.
5. Once you make a decision to let go of something, don’t go back. Donate it. Right away. “A common mistake people make is that they keep that giveaway bag around, so you waste time poring over it,” Saruwatari says.
The longer it sticks around, the harder it can be to sever ties. “The stuff in the box is going ‘Wait, wait! Don’t you want me still??” But just think—once it’s gone, you’re making room for those shoes you’ve been eyeing… —Molly Gallagher
(Photos, from top: flickr.com; Molly Gallagher for Well+Good)